Field Notes Utility’s amazing Mohawk paper 2

The Field Notes Utility has the same three colours as a Staedtler Noris

As far as I remember there’s one episode of The Pen Addict podcast where Myke, living in the UK like me, got his Field Notes subscription before Brad. Usually, though, it takes a bit longer for a subscription delivery to hit this side of the pond – but in the end (about two weeks later than most) the 34th quarterly edition ‘Utility’ hit my letterbox.

Overall Build Quality

Lead Fast’s review of the Utility edition mentions poorly cut notebook corners and splits at the bottom of the spine. Well, I must have been lucky: My corners look good, no problems at all, while some other Field Notes of mine, like the Cherry Graph notebooks I bought from Fred Aldous, are cut in a poorly fashion.

My Utility corners are much better than my Cherry Graph corners

The spine? A small tear, not even worth mentioning.

Some small marks

Instead, some of the covers were a bit dirty, something brown or dark red on front and back. With that bright colour and surface you can see marks more easily on this edition ..but hey, they’re gonna get dirty anyway with use, so that’s not really worth mentioning either. I only mention it because the issue of build quality was brought up in the Lead Fast review, so I report back that overall my Utilities arrived in great condition.

Graphite on Paper

Let’s have a look at the paper used: Mohawk Via Vellum 70#T “Pure White” paper with “Get-It-Done Gray” soy-based Saphira ink.

Mohawk Via Vellum (Open in new tab to read labels)

To test it I followed the usual procedure explained here: The pencil lead used has a nominal diameter of 0.7mm and an actual diameter of 0.68mm (more info about nominal vs actual diameters can be found here). This is equivalent to a surface area of 0.36mm². A force of 1.5N is used, which, in this case, is equivalent to 4.17 MegaPascals for this surface area.

As you can see in the image above I also had a look at the blank paper this time. You can see the “Pure White” and “Get-It-Done Gray” brightness coming in at around 2.9 and 2.5 respectively. 3.0 would be a perfect white, at the top of the y-axis. Lower values, toward the bottom of the y-axis, represent darker colours.

I then measured how dark the line on the paper is.

Mohawk Via Vellum compared (Open in new tab to read labels)

The Mohawk Via Vellum paper produces much darker lines than any of the other papers used in Field Notes I have tested so far.

A quick explanation: the wider a violin plot the more measurements of that shade of grey there are (white at the top, black at the bottom). The top of a violin plot represents the whitest shade of grey measured in a sample, the bottom of a violin plot represents the darkest shade measured. The lower the violin plot is placed the darker the line the lead produced on this paper. The higher the starting point at the top of a violin plot the whiter the lightest spots measured, which usually means the higher the starting point the whiter the paper. The Black Ice post contains a video with more explanations.

To see more information about the violin plots from this blog post please open the images in a new tab, you can then read the labels which are rather small when the images are unenlarged and formatted for this blog post.

I haven’t looked at point retention at all. More out of lack of time rather than lack of interest. You might very well think that there’s a causal relationship between darkness and point retention, but I couldn’t possibly comment as this wasn’t measured and is not what this violin plot is about. One thing to mention though, if you use a thin lead mechanical pencil (0.2mm, 0.3mm) the (undetermined) abrasiveness of the paper doesn’t make much difference as you are usually writing without rotating the pencil which will form a chisel point very soon, but your line on the paper will still be thin thanks to the thin lead.

The Utility (second from top) is thicker than other Field Notes

What does this mean?

What it means for you depends on what kind of pencils or leads you use, how you write or how you want your lines to be.

I prefer to write small to get more onto a page, so I love mechanical pencils with 0.2mm and 0.3mm leads as well as pencil sharpeners that produce points with acute angles and slightly harder pencil, like F, just so that the fine point lasts for a few words1.

When the Palomino Blackwing came out Sean send me a few. I took them to a meeting at work and writing with them was literally pointless as they didn’t hold their point for my style of writing for more than one word.  I haven’t really used them since as they are too soft for my writing. The fact that the company just stole Sean’s work and, as far as I know, hasn’t apologised to this day hasn’t helped to convince me to try other Blackwings either. Hmm, someone powerful doing whatever they want to normal people like you and me, where have I seen that recently. Anyway, the point here is that for me this paper is great, maybe because I don’t write using soft pencils anyway. At Pencil Revolution HQ, where soft pencils are more common, it’s a different matter and only some pencils are working well on this paper as explained in a blog post.

Conclusion

I’m quite excited and think this might become one of my favourite Field Notes editions. A great choice of paper and finally a metric ruler. I have often wished that the ruler printed in all Field Notes had metric labels, too.

 

 

  1. By the way, this is not reflected in the labels of the plots, I had to write big there so that it’s easy to read. []

Aurora’s Blue Black ink

Kirit Dal, who I have recently mentioned in the Lamy Horror Picture Show blog post, was kind enough to send me Aurora’s latest ink: Their take on Blue Black.

I have used quite a few blue black inks in the past, actually.. for a few year it was my favourite colour – but I have never used an Aurora ink before. Not only that, I somehow I also never really read up on them, so this ink led me into unchartered territory. If you have already used Aurora inks my discoveries will be nothing new to you, but for me this ink provided a lot of firsts. More about them later.

Left to right: Aurora, Mont Blanc (new), Diamine, Lamy (old)

Comparison

I compared the Aurora Blue Black to a few other blue black inks: Mont Blanc Midnight Blue (the newer Austrian version), Diamine Blu eBlack and Lamy Blue Black (the older iron gall version).

On Rhodia paper Lamy’s Blue Black was the most grey ink – and the only one that visible darkened after writing, so the assumption is that other inks don’t contain iron gall.

The Diamine was the most turquoise ink, and the worst behaved – meaning it was best at penetrating the paper and having a cheeky look out on the other side.

Mont Blanc’s Midnight Blue was the most purple and also the darkest.

Aurora’s Blue Black was the bluest of the inks and provided the following surprises.

A lid and a plug…

 

Surprise 1: packaging

The first surprise came when I saw that the ink bottle was the best protected against spilling in transport I have seen so far.

Not only was the bottle in the box shrink-wrapped, under the lid there was also a plastic plug. I shouldn’t have tried removing it with my fingers as the air pressure in the bottle was different to the one in my environment and I had a right mess on my fingers and on the paper sheet under the bottle.

 

Surprise 2: a well behaved ink

The second surprise came when I started using the ink.

It was actually a better behaved ink than expected. By that I mean that it prefers to orderly stay on the paper instead of naughtily sucking into the paper and bleeding through. It also seems to dry faster than your average ink ..always a good thing. I do have blotters on my desk at home and in the office, but faster drying inks are just less trouble, plus if you have to use a blotter the bits of the writing where the ink was still wet usually end up looking lighter.

Left to right: Aurora, Mont Blanc (new), Diamine, Lamy (old)

Even on poor quality photocopying paper it behaved very well, only showing signs of bleed through where the nib left a lot of ink on one spot.

On a Field Notes original/Kraft notebook with Finch Paper Opaque Smooth 60#T #Bright White’, the worst Field Notes paper I know it didn’t bleed though either.

One more thing to notice: this ink has some shading (but it’s certainly not the new shading king) and the dark areas are pretty dark. Depending on how wet your fountain pen writes this ink might look either greyish blue or nearly black.

Surprise 3: half erasable

The third surprise came when I tried to write with this ink on a Royal Mail postcard.

Testing on Royal Mail postcards with a Super5 0.7 in Delhi Orange

Having established that it’s a well behaved ink I thought I test it on a Royal Mail postcard as very few inks will work on this treated surface without spreading out across the paper. The surprise here was that the ink started to lose its blue component, as if the post card acts as an ink eraser. I have made a similar experience with the Thank You cards I got printed after our wedding in 2008. The ink on the Thank you Cards I wrote became invisible after a few weeks.

To test what’s going on with the Aurora Blue Black on this post card I tried an ink eraser on this ink. Immediately the blue component started to disappear1.

Rinse time

To finish it all off I had a look how these inks behaving after enjoying a refreshing rinse under a cold water tap for several seconds.

Left to right: Aurora, Mont Blanc (new), Diamine, Lamy (old)

The Aurora ink suffered most. Virtually all of the blue seemed to have washed away with only the grey component remaining.

Unsurprisingly the iron gall ink seemed least affected, but it is of course harsher on your writing equipment. Well, not to put your fountain pen written documents under running water shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, though.

Conclusion

The Aurora Blue Black is a great ink. You get some shading, you get well behaved, and you get a nice colour, serious but not too boring.

I hope to have a closer look again after having used this ink for several months.

 


I would like to thank Kirit Dal for sending me this ink. I think he might be the first seller in the UK to stock this ink. I have been told that he is well known at pen shows in the UK, but I haven’t been to any pen shows yet, so haven’t been able to meet him yet in person.

You can find more reviews of this ink at Squishy Ink  and Pen Chalet.

  1. In many countries pupils have to use ‘Royal Blue’ inks which are erasable with chemical ink erasers, originally invented by Pelikan. When I was young they were called in killers and were very common. You usually can’t use normal ink to write over the erased ink. Instead you use a special ink from the other side of the ink eraser. There used to be better ink eraser you can write over with normal ink. These were available around the year 1990, if I remember right, but I haven’t seen any like that in a long time. []

3M’s Post-it Label Roll (again)

3M Label Roll, Field Notes and Rustico (Image from the previous Labelling Notebooks blog post)

I just have to mention 3M’s Post-it label roll again.

It’s not cheap. When I bought mine it was £4 (~$4.85; €4.50 now, but back then ~$6.30; €5.60), but it’s just so useful. You can also get it in different colours by now.

As mentioned previously I use it to label Field Notes and other notebooks, but by now I use it to label about anything that needs labelling.

Here’s my stereo getting labelled.

I love stationery products that turn out to be more versatile and useful than originally expected.

 


Visiting an Arabic Calligraphy Workshop 4

A few weeks ago I went to a calligraphy workshop. My first ever. I found out about it when one of my students, who knows I like stationery, told me that a calligraphy workshop will be held on the premises of my employer (a university).

The student told me that the workshop was organised by the students’ Islamic Society, so I assumed it would be Arabic calligraphy, but wasn’t sure and couldn’t find out more online.

Well, I went there and it was Arabic calligraphy after all. As I don’t know anything about Arabic script I thought this would be an opportunity to learn more about it. When I asked I was told that the workshop is suitable for someone who doesn’t know Arabic.

I paid my £3 fee, but it all turned out a bit different than expected. I expected to use tools somehow similar to a dip pen and parchment, but instead, we wrote with colour markers on easel pads. I am still not sure how Arabic calligraphy works. Someone wrote with a board marker on a white board and we copied that sentence again and again. The idea was that you vary the look of the letters (if that’s the right word, are they called letters?) to look good ..but as I don’t even know how the letters are supposed to look like I wasn’t sure how they can be changed or varied while still staying recognisable to someone who can read Arabic.

No idea whether this looks good or not.

It was an interesting experience, but it would be nice to make these events more inclusive by making them less of a ‘you copy down what’s on the board’ exercise and giving some explanations about the writing system.

I wonder whether there’ll also be Western calligraphy workshops in the future.

 

 


The Rolls Royce of Pencil Sharpeners 4

I first heard about the ELM V-71 a few years ago. The person who told me about it has more knowledge about sharpeners than anyone else I know ..and he called the V-71 the Rolls Royce of sharpeners.

ELM V71 (Image from 东莞八束易之美五金塑胶制品有限公司)

It’s an electric burr/cylindrical sharpener. Not exactly a very cheap one either – if you want to get one in Europe it will set you back around $150, but you’d probably have to import it yourself as I haven’t seen it for sale in the West. If you are trying to get one: most pages where I’ve seen it being offered are from Singapore.

ELM V5 (Image from 东莞八束易之美五金塑胶制品有限公司)

ELM (Dongguan Yatsuka Yizhimei Metal & Plastic Co.) also offers cheaper, battery operated burr/cylindrical sharpeners – a very different class to the normal battery operated sharpeners you can get, but also more expensive. The ELM V-3 and the ELM V-5 are about $30 each. Maybe we’re lucky and one day someone will import them. I am very tempted to order one, but haven’t done so yet. Maybe writing this blog post can convince me to press the Buy button after all. I think it will.

In the West you might have come across products from this manufacturer under the ACCO brand (one of their electric staplers).

Why do I write about this?

It looks as if it will soon be much easier to get your hands on the V71.

 

Caran d’Ache electric sharpener (Image © lexikaliker.de)

At the Paper World Gunther saw a new Caran d’Ache sharpener that will be available from September for €100. When I saw the pictures I first didn’t notice it, I hadn’t looked at the V71 for many months, but when I saw the ELM V71 again online I noticed that it seems to be the same sharpener. The inside might be different of course, better or worse, but there’s a good chance that this is the Rolls Royce of sharpeners after all.

Caran d’Ache electric sharpener (Image © lexikaliker.de)


I would like to thank Gunther from Lexikaliker for allowing me to use his pictures.

The pictures of the ELM sharpeners have been taken from websites linked to Dongguan Yatsuka Yizhimei Metal & Plastic Co. I believe that the use of the images shown in this blog post, falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.